Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All Star Superman

As All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder was, in my opinion, the worst Batman comic book ever printed, All Star Superman is among the best examples of its title character's comics.

For 12 uninterrupted issues, unmarred by world-shaking crossovers and unnecessary guest appearances, we have been treated to Grant Morrison's and Frank Quitely's tribute to the wonder that is Superman. Nearly every element of the Superman of my youth is there: the bottle city of Kandor, the Fortress of Solitude, Krypto the Superdog, the Superman robots, Luthor as evil scientist (as opposed to the post-Crisis corporate tycoon), Jimmy Olsen's signal watch, and Bizarro. And it's all done well. Morrison takes the inane and treats it with respect and dignity and tells a story that is completely adult, without language and gore that would gall anyone with good taste.

The story begins in issue #1 with Lex Luthor killing Superman. No, really. Luthor plots Superman's death by overloading his cells with solar radiation, the same solar radiation that provides Superman's powers. Superman literally has more power than he can handle, and his cells are being disrupted by the surplus. Superman spends the entire 12-issue run putting his affairs in order and doing what he can for humanity before his inevitable end arrives.

Frank Quitely's art takes some getting used to, but grows on you after a while. He tends to draw Superman's red trunks more like boxer briefs than the circus trunks that inspired them, and Superman's cape is a bit short. But then again, that's how it looked in the fifties and sixties.

This title is a throwback in another way, too. I probably wouldn't have bought the first issue and gotten sucked into the story if it had not been for one thing: The first issue had a variant Neal Adams cover (seen at right). I am a huge fan of the Superman vs. Muhammad Ali treasury comic done back in 1978, and Adams' Superman is nearly as iconic to me as his Batman is. I remember a lot of the 70s Superman books were the same way. They would have an Adams or a Rich Buckler or a Nick Cardy or even a Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez cover, with Curt Swan interiors. Quitely is a bit more stylized than Curt Swan, but his blocky Superman is certainly reminiscent.

This series may have taken three years to put out 12 issues, but the story was well worth the wait. This is how Superman should be done.

1 comment:

KC Ryan said...

Yes! This is one of the greatest Superman stories ever - I keep turning back to the stories and rereading them over and over - can't help it. From Jimmy Olsen to Lois Lane to Luthor to Clark to the Superman from the Fifth Dimension (who for some reason didn't sing, here), this series is just tops!